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Virology: SARS-CoV-2 capable of infecting intestinal cells

Nature Medicine

May 14, 2020

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is capable of infecting human and bat intestinal organoids (miniaturized and simplified versions of the intestine produced in the laboratory), reports a study in Nature Medicine. The findings, which also include clinical isolation of the virus from a human stool sample, suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may be capable of infecting the human intestinal tract, in addition to the respiratory system.

Genetic analysis has revealed that SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to SARS-related coronaviruses found in horseshoe bats. However, the absence of laboratory models that can be used to study bat viruses limits study in this area. It is thought that bat organoids could potentially help in elucidating the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

Jie Zhou and colleagues report the creation of the first bat intestinal organoid. The organoid was derived from the horseshoe bat species Rhinolophus sinicus and simulates the cellular makeup of the intestinal epithelium. The authors then assessed whether the organoids were susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2 and found that they were capable of sustaining viral replication. The findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 can infect bat intestinal cells, and thus, recapitulate the natural infection in bat intestine

Zhou and co-authors also investigated whether human intestinal organoids were susceptible to the virus and observed that viral replication took place here too. They were also able to isolate SARS-CoV-2 from the stool specimen of a female patient diagnosed with COVID-19, which suggests that intestinal infection may have occurred.

doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-0912-6

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